27th February 2016, Saturday…Day (8) Oodlabari-Guwahati, 470 km
It was a sheer joy getting up and stepping out of the car that morning in Oodlabari. It was the best sleep of the trip so far. In fact, the dhaba owner had to knock at the car to wake me up. It was so freshening. The landscape and scenery around was mesmerising.
I love early morning drive. I knew this one was going to be a memorable one. So anticipating beautiful landscape I was on the road immediately. Driving through large tea estates and meandering brooks was like a dream and after being lost for about 15 kilometers in that beautiful landscape reached a very happening place. It was Malbazar, an important town of West famous for large tea estates and exploring wildlife in dooars.
Dooars or duars are the alluvial floodplains in the foothills of Himalayas approximately 30 kilometer wide and stretching about 350 kilometers in length from Siliguri to Darjeeling or Teesta River in WB to Dhanshiri River in Assam. There are about 18 gateways in between hills of Bhutan and plains of India in dooars.
Enjoyed breakfast consisting of chana puri and yummy gulab jamun at Pandit Mistanna Bhander near bus stand Malbazar and was on the road again.
From Malbazar the drive was again through big and beautiful tea estates and through numerous rivulets. Large number of men and women were seen working in tea estates. The region is one of the largest tea producing areas in the world.
Interestingly, tea is the most popular beverage in the world after water and is believed to have originated in China as a medicinal drink. Britishers took it to United Kingdom in 17th century and introduced in India in 18th century at Darjeeling. India is currently the 2nd largest tea producer in the world and although it was not very popular in India till 1950’s, almost 70% of it is consumed locally.
Looking at numerous rail bridges on the route I could visualise how beautiful train journey through these beautiful tea gardens, forests and rivulets would be. Thought would surely do someday. Meanwhile clicked few pictures of these fascinating Northeast Frontier Railways bridges for memory lane.
Through majestic mountains and mesmerising dooars drive continued to be amazing, loved each and every moment of it. But since my camera battery was discharging fast I could not click as many pictures as I normally would have.
Dooars are mainly famous for three things tea, tourism and forests. Besides being one of the largest tea producing area in the world and employing thousands of people, its rich forests are dotted with numerous national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
After crossing the hub for transport and trade, Birpara, I reached entry point of Jaldapara National Park having the largest population of one horned Indian rhinoceros.
Numerous trees having blooming red flowers all along the road, were making the landscape even more scenic and colorful. Soon I reached Hasimara, famous for Air Force Station and gateway to Bhutan. Bhutan is just 17 kilometer from Hasimara.
Listening to many bhutanese, chinese and bangladeshi radio stations enroute was another interesting aspect of the drive. It felt as if I was driving in a foreign land.
Numerous rivulets and rivers flowing from up above the hills was another fascinating aspect of the drive. Its bluish color was complementing the hue of the sky and green of forests. People fishing in different ways was another fascinating sight.
After crossing a stream near Srirampur I entered Assam and was approaching Bongaigaon, one of the biggest commercial and industrial hub of Northeast India. Don’t know why, started feeling a little homesick as well.
Since camera battery was almost drained out and its charger gone, I was in a hurry to reach Guwahati so that I could get sufficient time to purchase new one. I knew I was driving through eastern part of the country still Sunset around 5pm was little unusual. Soon crossed a huge bridge over Brahmaputra and reached Guwahati by evening.
Guwahati looked big, crowded but well organised city. Had to make lot of effort to locate charger shop. Finally got one just in time while the shop was about to shut down. Would have been frustrating as next day being Sunday, would have been tough without camera .
There were many good places where I could have parked the car and slept. But I wanted a place with good north Indian food. Finally I saw a place where lot of trucks with Punjabi drivers were parked. The area had many north Indian restaurants too. The kind of place I was looking for. Parked the car in front of New Rajasthan Bhojnalya, enjoyed few drink and then nice spicy dinner.
After nice little walk, slipped into the car, my home, home on wheels, pulled the covers over and slept inside, parked in front of New Rajasthan Bhojnalya, Guwahati, my first night inside the car in Assam………….!!!
Map showing route followed for the day